In the heart of Paris, away from the busy city, the Saint-Martin canal is a haven of peace that you can discover in calm and quiet from our boats ; for more than 150 years this canal links the Seine river, just behind Notre-Dame cathedral, to the canals of the Ourcq river and of Saint-Denis in the North of Paris, crossing the old quarters of the East of Paris in full revival.
The charm and romantism of the Canal, with its one-hundred-year-old sweet chestnuts, its locks, its entirely subterrean section, its swinging bridges, its footbridges and its lively banks makes it a very popular place to stroll as soon as the first days of sun are there.
A cruise across this part of Paris – little known by the Parisians themselves - is a real discovery off the beaten track, which mixes relaxation and fun...
Lined with one-hundred-year-old sweet chestnuts and spanned by elegant footbridges, the Canal Saint-Martin invites to romantism and contemplation. Pretty little chic and coloured shops (Antoine et Lili, Dupleks, La librairie Artazart...) and a multitude of trendy bistrots (Le comptoir général, Chez Prune, La Marine, La cantine de Quentin, and many others...) are to be found on its banks, and the Parisians enjoy to meet there for a walk, a pic-nic, a cruise or a drink. You will also discover the famous « Hôtel du Nord », renowned thanks to the film of the same name and to Arletty, today a restaurant in fashion for Parisian nights and offering a « bistronomic » cuisine.
To the northen end of the Canal, the Parc de la Villette offers a very popular place where the Parisians go to relax, to do some activities and to have a walk. It is a multidisciplinary space with a multitude of leasure activities available. You can visit the Cité de la science, the Musée de la musique, the Géode..., go to the circus, to the theatre (Tarmac, Théâtre Paris Villette) or listen to concerts in prestigious venues such as the Zénith of Paris.
When the weather is good, the Canal becomes a place to party ! A hotspot for night life and Paris youth, the Canal offers - as well as its numerous cafés, winebars and restaurant - renowned places for party and culture, such as the restaurant-club Bizzart dedicated to Soul music, the Café A ou the Point Ephémère, which are bars and restaurants, concert venues and exhibition halls. Having a drink for the apéritif on a cruise on the Canal at nightfall is also a rare moment enjoyed by connoisseurs and informed visitors.
For the pleasure of both inhabitants and visitors, the Canal Saint-Martin welcomes during all summer in the Bassin de la Villette : « Paris Plage » and « l’Eté du Canal ».
The programme of events includes : beaches, water activities (pedalo, canoeing...), guinguette dancing, balls, cruises with cultural, festive and gastronomic themes. This year, the visitors will be able to have a swim in the Canal, a 90-meter-long space divided into three pools will be set up. Canauxrama is associated to « l’Eté du Canal » and offers numerous themed cruises during this event.
The Canal Saint-Martin has always been a hotspot for filming. The Bastille vault has for example served as background to the films « Ratatouille » and « La Reine Margot ». The Temple lock was immortalised by French cinema ; this is where Amélie Poulain was skimming stones. And obviously the Récollets lock was made famous by the film « Hôtel du Nord » of Marcel Carné. This is the place where the actress Arletty famously replied to Louis Jouvet : « Atmosphère ! Atmosphère ! Est-ce j’ai une gueule d’atmosphère ».
By day or at nightfall, a cruise on the Canal Saint-Martin is an out of ordinary experience which will lead you off the beaten track during your stay in Paris.
Board the boat at the charming Arsenal Marina, located below the Bastille square and its opera theatre. You will slide through the mysterious Bastille vault where the light is magical ! You will pass under the « Colonne de Juillet » (July Column), topped with the « Génie de la Bastille », symbol of freedom, and under its crypt, where a mummy - brought back by Napoleon - is still buried.
You will arrive at the first lock : the Temple lock. The doors of the lock slowly open and give way to this bucolic canal.
Quietly, go on with your cruise, after the two swinging bridges : from the rue Dieu to the rue de la Grange aux Belles, you will approach the Récollets lock, made famous by the film « Hôtel du Nord » by Marcel Carné. Through the foliage, you will be able to glimpse the Hôtel du Nord, which has become a popular Parisian restaurant.
Your cruise slowly goes on along the water, where the trees are reflected, inspiring painters such as Alfred Sisley. You slide along the Villemin park and the old Récollets convent, which shelters nowadays the Café A – bar, restaurant, artists’ residence, concert venue, exhibition hall.
Then, you will pass through the third and penultimate lock of the Canal Saint-Martin, the lock of the Deads, which was named so because of the presence of a nearby old Merovingian cemetery as well as of the Montfaucon Gibet, the favorite gallows of the French kings for several centuries.
You will go through the last lock of the Canal, the Jaurès lock, located next to the old road to Germany, the actual Avenue Jean Jaurès, which saw Louis XVI trying to flee towards Varennes and then Napoleon coming back victorious from his campaign in Prussia.
After this lock, you will discover the Bassin de la Villette, a place to relax for Parisians at the beginning of the 19th century, who practised nautical activities or even ice-skating. They would attend the famous « guinguettes », cabarets where a little white wine named « guinguet » was enjoyed ! With the coming of the industrial era, the Bassin de la Villette became one of the first commercial port of France.
With the years, the different industrial buildings which are lining the basin, have all been renovated : Ledoux Rotunda, an old toll-house, has become a trendy bar and restaurant. Two arthouse cinemas moved into the old warehouses, constructed from parts of the Pavilions of the Universal exhibition of 1872, whose creator was Gustave Eifel. The former general stores - which flank the one-hundred-year-old drawbridge of Crimée – have been transformed as well. One of them shelters an ecological hotel, a hostel, a restaurant and a bar. The second one welcomes a student residence, the water sports centre of the city of Paris, as well as a brasserie with a floating terrace : the Paname Brewing Company, which makes on the spot an excellent handmade beer ! Barges, which used to transport goods, are now moored all year round in the Bassin de la Villette and have been turned into a theatre, a concert venue, a bookshop, a bar or a restaurant.
The boat slides slowly along the Saint Jacques-Saint Christophe church, located in the former village of La Villette where vineyards were cultivated and which produced the « Guinguet » ; before reaching the « roundabout of the canals », as this is the junction of the three Parisian canals : the Canal Saint-Martin, the canal of the Ourcq river and the Canal Saint-Denis.
You will arrive then in the Parc de la Villette, the biggest park of Paris with its 55 hectares, created in place of the former slaughterhouses of the city of Paris and crossed by the canal of the Ourcq river.
You can visit there : the Cité des Sciences et de l’industrie, museum dedicated to scientific culture, or the Musée de la Musique. Or else, you can go to the circus, to the theatre (Tarmac or Théâtre Paris Villette), or to see a concert – three venues are located there : the Zénith for rock music, the Trabendo for electro (and where the Rolling Stones performed recently). The last one to have settled there - as part of the Grand Paris project - is the Philarmonie, dedicated to symphonic music. The cinema is at honour with the Géode, a film theatre whose hemispherical screen is 1000 m2 big. Each year, an open-air cinema settles on the lawn lining the Grande Halle, where are organised concerts and exhibitions. The gardens are also the place of annual cultural events : the Festival Villette sonique, Jazz à la Villette...
The Parc de la Villette marks the end of your cruise on the Canal Saint-Martin. Along the water and through the locks, fascinating pages of the history of the city of lights and the hidden Paris of the Parisians have been revealed to you !
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